Sunday, 14 November 2010

ON THE GREEK ARMED LEFT

Greek Authorities Focus on Radical Left


The series of package bombs originating in Greece continued late on Tuesday with
officials discovering an explosive parcel addressed to Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi. Athens authorities are focusing on left-wing militant groups
in the Greek capital.

The list of package bombs is long. Every day so far this week, authorities have
discovered new explosive devices concealed as parcels and bound for addresses
both in Athens and across the European continent. All of them are thought to
have originated in Greece.

On Monday, several homemade bombs concealed in hollowed-out books arrived in the
mail at several embassies in the Greek capital. Another explosive device was
discovered addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

On Tuesday, officials found more parcel bombs bound for embassies in Athens. In
the afternoon, the mailroom at the German Chancellery in Berlin was closed after
a package bomb addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel was discovered there.
Officials found the explosive device during a routine check and quickly rendered
it harmless.

On Tuesday evening, two further packages -- one addressed to the European police
body Europol and a second bound for the European Court of Justice -- were found
and destroyed at the Athens airport.

Airmail Suspended

And late on Tuesday, the Greek police reported a suspicious package on board a
small mail plane heading to Paris. The plane landed in Bologna where experts
examined the parcel, addressed to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. It
exploded when it was opened but nobody was injured.

Just before midnight, Greek officials announced that no letters or packages
would be sent by airmail for the next 48 hours.

In Germany, Merkel, who was in Belgium on Tuesday when the parcel bomb was
discovered, called for increased security on air freight. Speaking to the
newspaper Passauer Neue Presse, Merkel said, referring both to the al-Qaida
package bombs originating in Yemen last week as well as the most recent spate of
explosive deliveries in Europe: "This incident as well as the problem that we
just had in the Chancellery with a suspicious package should motivate us to
better coordinate controls on freight within Europe with the US and, as far as
possible, worldwide."

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière ordered mailrooms at all German
government facilities to check their security procedures and tighten them as
necessary.

In Greece, Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou condemned the series of package
bombs. He said his government would be "merciless to those who attempt in vain
to rock social peace with terrorist acts and hurt our country's image
internationally during a very difficult period."

Active Left-Wing

The country is going through a deep debt crisis and was already tense prior to
this week's series of package bomb attacks. Riots shook Greece in the spring and
leftist violence is on the rise. On Tuesday evening in Athens, several cars were
set on fire in apparent sympathy with the parcel bomb campaign. Papandreou's
government has set up a hotline and requested Greek citizens to call in with
tips that could help apprehend those responsible.

Officials have initially focused their attention on the left-extremist scene in
Athens, which has been increasingly active this year. On Monday, a crack police
unit known as DIAS made two arrests in Athens in connection with the package
bomb spree. The suspects, both in their early 20s, were found carrying two
parcel bombs, a list with 10 addresses including those of courier services, and
two Glock pistols.

One of those parcels found was addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy --
Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos was listed as the sender. The second
package was addressed to the Belgian Embassy in Athens with the aid organization
Action Aid listed as the sender.

According to Greek media reports, the police issued an arrest warrant for one of
the suspects, Panagiotis A., one year ago due to his alleged membership in the
anarchist militant group Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire. He is thought to have
smuggled a bomb on board an Athens city bus on June 27, 2009. The other suspect
arrested on Monday, Gerassimos T., is thought to belong to the anarchist milieu
in Athens but had never been arrested previously. His older brother, however, is
suspected of having carried out terrorist activities.

Good for Nothing without a Hole

Left-wing extremists in Greece have become more active ever since the police
shot dead a 15 year old in the leftist-alternative Athens quarter of Exarchia in
December 2008. Indeed, there are a number of radical leftist cells active in the
Greek capital, including a group calling itself the Revolutionary Sect which
staged an armed assault on an Athens police station in February 2009. In a
statement claiming responsibility for the assault, the group wrote: "The bodies
of the police are perfect for target practice. They are like the donuts they
eat: without a hole in the middle they are good for nothing."

The painful austerity measures passed by the government in response to the debt
crisis have given leftists an additional boost.

The two suspects arrested on Monday have refused to speak to police nor have
they allowed themselves to be fingerprinted. Public prosecutors opened an
investigation on Tuesday with the two standing accused of carrying out terrorist
acts, belonging to a terrorist organization and the possession of firearms.
Athens police are searching for five further suspects between the ages of 21 and
30, all of them thought to belong to the left-extremist scene in the Greek
capital.

Still, the weapons found on the two suspects now in custody were not used in the
2009 assault nor in two additional attacks that year claimed by the Revolutionary
Sect, police officials have said.

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